Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms for consumers to interact with their friends and brands they love. In fact, 80 percent of Instagram users follow a business, and every day 200 million users visit a business page on Instagram. Clearly, there’s a ton of opportunity for businesses to get in front of loyal fans and potential customers on this platform — and they need to capitalize on it to stay top-of-mind and ahead of their competition. So, if your Instagram strategy needs a reboot, now’s the time for an upgrade.
With the right strategy, Instagram can help you spread the word about your business, engage with younger audiences and bring new customers in the door.
5 ways to upgrade your business’s Instagram strategy
Here are some essential tips to upgrade your small business’s Instagram strategy:
Know your audience and keep them excited.
Be mindful of timing.
Use hashtags in a smart way.
Engage with your fans.
Share user-generated content.
Let’s dig into each tip, with examples from businesses that are doing Insty right.
1. Know your audience and keep them excited
The first step towards implementing an effective Instagram strategy for marketing your business is to think about your audience.
Who are they? What do they want to see? What will get them engaged and excited to come by for a visit?
Once you know who you’re trying to reach, then you can put an effective Instagram strategy into place. Overall, when it comes to following brands, Instagram users want to see tailored, authentic content that provides value at a regular cadence.
Make sure that with every post you’re thinking about your followers and whether or not that content will add value to their day.
For any audience, variation on social media is key. Don’t let your Instagram feed get boring — mix it up! This means posting different kinds of photos (interior, exterior, team, product, etc.), graphics and video content, all with compelling captions.
If you own a restaurant, for example, post photos of your delicious food — but mix in other content, too. Showcase a photo of your most popular cocktail, your patio or the team that makes it all happen. If you own a salon, try posting some before and after photos of a great blowout in a carousel post. Or, you post a Boomerang video of a customer with a new manicure. In other words, keep things fresh to keep your audience engaged.
Here are two different kinds of engaging posts from local restaurant Mama’s Boy in Athens, Ga.:
Example 1: A great product shot
Example 2: A photo of a team member
Pro tip: You can use Instagram Stories for in-the-moment content — to document an event, for example — and post only a photo or video to your feed that you think is the best-quality photo from that event.
Striking the right frequency is also key to keep your followers interested. Try not to overwhelm your followers — post two to three times a week and only post if you have something to share with your audience. Don’t spam them with promotional content. Instagram is all about quality over quantity.
2. Be mindful of timing
Now that you have some ideas for great content, it’s important to plan out when you will post, thinking about when your followers would be most likely to engage.
Time of the day and day of the week matter — be thoughtful about when you post to get those likes, shares and comments up!
For example, if you own a gym, remind your followers about your morning classes in a post around 4 p.m. That way, they’ll be able see your content as they scroll through Instagram on their commute home and could book a class the next morning. If you own a restaurant with a great happy hour, try posting about your happy hour specials at lunchtime — capturing your audience when they’re scrolling through their feeds could encourage them to ditch their previous plans and visit your business instead.
Try posting at different times to see what works best for your audience and use time to your advantage.
3. Use hashtags in a smart way
Using relevant hashtags in your caption can get new eyes on your business’s Instagram content and help you boost your engagement.
Not sure how that works? Here’s a brief rundown. When you use hashtags in your post, it allows your post to show up in Instagram’s search function. For example, if a user is searching for a hashtag like #4thofJuly, and you have used that hashtag in a post, your business’s post will show up in those search results, even if that user doesn’t follow you.
What’s the benefit? The more new users that see your business’s posts, the more likely you are to gain new followers and new business.
Adding trending hashtags like #4thofJuly, #HappyMothersDay or #tbt can be a good idea to get more eyes on your content, but those hashtags can also get flooded with content from lots of other accounts, which can bury your post in Instagram’s search results.
For example, in Austin, Texas, customers and businesses love using #ATX, #AustinEats and #ATXeats. If you’re an Austin restaurant, you can add a local hashtag like #ATXeats to your post to get to the top of search results on Instagram, get in front of locals and spread the word about your business to the people in your neighborhood.
A simple Google search with your city, the word “hashtag” and what you want to post about (i.e. “Chicago food hashtags”) will help you find these local hashtags.
Note: You can add up to 30 hashtags on an Instagram post, but be mindful of the hashtags you’re choosing. Make sure they are relevant to your post and your audience before you add them en masse.
Instagram hashtag tips
If you want to add hashtags to your post, you can use the following strategies to keep them out of the main caption (or the first few sentences of your caption). The reasoning behind keeping the hashtags out of the main caption is to try to gain more reach without distracting from the message you’re trying to get across in your post.
- Add the end of your caption, type a period, then hit enter (and repeat x3). You can also use dashes or emojis instead of periods.
- Type your caption in Notes on your smartphone, then copy and paste over to Instagram to maintain the spacing you want.
- Add the hashtags you want to use as the first comment on your own post, rather than in the caption.
4. Engage with your fans
So, you’ve gone live with an engaging post on Instagram and it’s getting a lot of traction. Likes and comments are flowing in — and you’re feeling great. This is not the time to relax, though. Your work is not done yet! You need to interact with the people who are making your post a success.
Be sure to like user comments and reply to user comments on your posts — it helps build rapport, and ultimately helps build relationships with your online community.
Unsure how to do that? Here’s another brief rundown: When you take a look at the comments on your post, there’s a “like” feature where you can let users know that you liked their comment. Just hit “View all comments,” and tap the heart. You can also reply to your comments, and that reply will appear underneath the user’s comment.
When you engage with your fans’ comments, they will get a notification that you liked it and replied, this engagement will make them feel appreciated, and they’ll be more likely to engage with your content in the future. In fact, more than 60 percent of millennials (the largest group of users on Instagram) say they’ll become loyal to a business if the brand engages with them online.
You can also take the time to comment on and like posts of your fans and other users in your local community. These interactions show users that you’re involved in the community, that your brand is engaging, and will help give your business an authentic voice and personality. It’s a lasting way to create brand loyalty for your business, especially with younger users.
5. Share user-generated content
Resharing what other users are posting about your brand or business on Instagram is not only free advertising, but it’s free content! Users are giving you great content to share on your page. Don’t let that opportunity pass you by — share it!
The content your fans post about your business (aka user-generated content) provides a fantastic opportunity for you to show your followers how much your fans love you.
Creating this kind of connection can help you make these Instagram users into lifelong fans of your business and will encourage other users to share photos of their experience the next time they come by. Plus, millennial users value this kind of endorsement — they trust user-generated content 50 percent more than original content created by a brand.
Not sure how to reshare content? Here’s yet another brief rundown. You can share another user’s photo by using a reposting app — many, like the Repost app, are free in the App Store. Other options: You can ask the user for their original photo or ask for permission to screenshot and share their post. Just make sure that however you’re resharing the UGC, credit the user who created the original post within the caption. For example, “Thanks for the photo, @user!” Or simply, “camera emoji: user.”
Here’s an example from Jo’s Coffee of how you can reuse and reshare a user’s photo on your own Instagram page:
And here’s an example of BBQ joint la Barbecue using a reposting app.
Track the results of your Instagram strategy
You’ve done it! You’ve upgraded your Instagram strategy. Your posts are now more high quality, engaging and varied. They have smart hashtags and smart captions. Your friends and neighbors are bragging about you, and you’re bringing new customers in the door. Yet, it’s still not time to relax! Your work is never done. It’s not enough just to keep posting content on Instagram.
Measuring your engagement rate is the best way to gauge if your content is resonating with your audience.
Engagement Rate = # of Likes divided by # of Followers x 100
You’ll want to aim for around a 3-percent engagement rate. If you have thousands of followers but you’re only getting 20 likes per post, you need to change up your Instagram strategy. Receiving such a low amount of likes signifies that either users aren’t seeing your posts, or your content isn’t engaging enough to make them double tap.
Experiment with time of day, type of content and number of hashtags. Start thinking of ways to get in front of new users like hosting a contest, giving away a promotion or utilizing more user-generated content.
Measuring these stats is the best way to make sure all the efforts you’re putting in to engage your fans is actually working.